Primary Documents - Kaiser Wilhelm II's Letter to President Wilson Regarding Belgian Use of Dum-Dum Bullets, 7 September 1914

Kaiser Wilhelm II Reproduced below is the text of the telegram sent by German Kaiser Wilhelm II to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson on 7 September 1914.

In the telegram the German Emperor notified President Wilson of the alleged Belgian use of prohibited Dum-Dum bullets (i.e. soft-nosed) against German soldiers based in Belgium.  This, allied to the fact that as a neutral nation Belgian citizens had no right to take up arms against Germany, in turn necessitated stern German counter-measures.

Such measures included the virtual destruction of the town of Louvain - a measure which drew shocked condemnation from many neutral nations, not least the U.S.

The Kaiser's letter can be (and was) seen as a form of justification for heavy-handed German military conduct in invaded Belgium; the letter was certainly given little credence at the time and was regarded as straightforward propaganda.

Telegram to President Woodrow Wilson from Kaiser Wilhelm II, 7 September 1914

I feel it my duty, Mr. President, to inform you as the most prominent representative of principles of humanity, that after taking the French fortress of Longwy, my troops discovered there thousands of dumdum cartridges made by special government machinery.

The same kind of ammunition was found on killed and wounded troops and prisoners, also on the British troops.  You know what terrible wounds and suffering these bullets inflict and that their use is strictly forbidden by the established rules of international law.

I therefore address a solemn protest to you against this kind of warfare, which, owing to the methods of our adversaries, has become one of the most barbarous known in history.

Not only have they employed these atrocious weapons, but the Belgian Government has openly encouraged and, since long, carefully prepared the participation of the Belgian civil population in the fighting.

The atrocities committed even by women and priests in this guerrilla warfare, also on wounded soldiers, medical staff and nurses, doctors killed, hospitals attacked by rifle fire, were such that my generals finally were compelled to take the most drastic measures in order to punish the guilty and to frighten the bloodthirsty population from continuing their work of vile murder and horror.

Some villages and even the old town of Loewen [Louvain], excepting the fine hotel de ville, had to be destroyed in self-defence and for the protection of my troops.  My heart bleeds when I see that such measures have become unavoidable and when I think of the numerous innocent people who lose their home and property as a consequence of the barbarous behaviour of those criminals.


Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. II, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

"Boche" was a disparaging term used to describe anything German.

- Did you know?

Primary Docs